Grammar Commas in Titles |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Commas in Titles

Rule – Use commas to set off the name or title of a person directly addressed.
Examples:
Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?
Yes, Doctor, I will. NOTE: Capitalize a title when directly addressing someone.
Joshua, please remember to buy lettuce.
Please remember to buy lettuce, Joshua.

Rule – Use commas to surround degrees or titles used with names. Commas are no longer required around Jr. and Sr. Commas never set off II, III, and so forth.
Example:
Al Mooney, MD, knew Sam Sunny Jr. and Charles Starr III.

Pop Quiz
1A. The defendant has accused you Mr. Dempsey of trying to steal his credit card.
1B. The defendant has accused you, Mr. Dempsey of trying to steal his credit card.
1C. The defendant has accused you, Mr. Dempsey, of trying to steal his credit card.

2A. The injury to Robert Griffin III does not appear to be serious.
2B. The injury to Robert Griffin, III does not appear to be serious.
2C. The injury to Robert Griffin, III, does not appear to be serious.

3A. I am sorry professor that my paper is late.
3B. I am sorry, Professor, that my paper is late.
3C. I am sorry, professor, that my paper is late.

4A. Grover Washington Jr. has an appointment today with Orin Scrivello DDS.
4B. Grover Washington, Jr. has an appointment today with Orin Scrivello, DDS.
4C. Grover Washington, Jr., has an appointment today with Orin Scrivello, DDS.
4D. Grover Washington Jr. has an appointment today with Orin Scrivello, DDS.

Pop Quiz Answers
1C. The defendant has accused you, Mr. Dempsey, of trying to steal his credit card.
2A. The injury to Robert Griffin III does not appear to be serious.
3B. I am sorry, Professor, that my paper is late.
4D. Grover Washington Jr. has an appointment today with Orin Scrivello, DDS.
NOTE: Answer “4C. Grover Washington, Jr., has an appointment today with Orin Scrivello, DDS,” also is acceptable but the commas surrounding Jr. are no longer required.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

20 responses to “Commas in Titles”

  1. Ed C. says:

    In a list of names, what about the comma after a name, and before “Jr.” in the middle of the list? Does that require using semi-colons after items all the way through?

    • Jane says:

      According to Rule 7 of Commas: “Commas are no longer required around Jr. and Sr.
      Therefore, if there are no commas between names and Jr. or any other titles, then you do not need to separate the names with semicolons.

      For example:
      The attendees included John Doe, Jane Doe, Sam Sunny Jr., and Dolores Chang.
      The attendees included John Doe, M.D.; Jane Doe; Sam Sunny Jr.; and Dolores Chang.

  2. Rebekah says:

    Thank you for all the info on your website! I have a question about punctuation in incomplete sentences, e.g., in photo captions. I was told that in a caption like this one (I’m making one up):

    Three athletes are walking to a nearby stadium. Moscow, Russia, 1965

    the latter part of the caption only has commas but not a period at the end because incomplete sentences don’t need a period. Is that correct?
    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks so much.

    • Your caption could be a complete sentence (Three athletes are walking to a nearby stadium in Moscow, Russia, 1965.), but even as is, we advise a period at the end. The rule you speak of does not exist.

  3. Teri H. says:

    If I’m thanking someone, is it more appropriate to write, “Thanks, Pam!” or…”Thanks Pam!”

    I struggle with this, and I’ve noticed that most people don’t use the comma so I’m just curious!

    • One of our Commas rules states “Use commas to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed.” Therefore, “Thanks, Pam!” is formally correct. Along with you, we’ve noticed that people tend to omit the comma in informal writing.

  4. BL says:

    What is there are multiple degrees: Jane Doe, DDS, MD, JD is a nice person.
    Is there a comma after “Jane Doe”? after “JD”?
    I would really appreciate some guidelines.

  5. A. Silver says:

    Jane Doe, PhD and John Smith will speak.
    -or-
    Jane Doe, PhD, and John Smith will speak.

  6. Abbie Bill says:

    I am trying to figure out when listing names by last name first, where does the degree go? Should it be Brown, John, BA or Brown, BS John. I can’t find the answer to this. Thank you

  7. Christy says:

    How should names and positions appear when writing a list for a photo caption?
    1. John Doe, Branch Head, Jane Doe, Family Liaison, Bob Smith, Data Specialist
    Or
    2. John Doe, Branch Head; Jane Doe, Family Liaison; Bob Smith, Data Specialist

  8. j says:

    Can you give more examples for the rule “Use commas to surround degrees or titles used with names”? Can you give me the reason why I need to use commas to surround titles and names?

    • For more examples, please see our reply to BL of April 13, 2017, and our response to A. Silver of April 26, 2017. If someone is sufficiently identified, the descriptive degree or title that follows is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas.

  9. Kathy Rodriques says:

    My editor, using the Chicago Style, sent back corrections that included a list of names set apart by a semicolon instead of commas. I have never seen names listed like this. “The following day, my mother, Grammy; Abel; Josh; Erin; and I went to a restaurant…”
    Originally, I had written “The following day, my mother (Grammy), Abel and I, and Josh and Erin went to a restaurant…”
    Can you please tell me if the semicolon sentence is the correct one? Thanks.

    • Your editor is referring to Rule 6.60 (Semicolons in a complex series). The rule reads in part: “When items in a series themselves contain internal punctuation, separating the items with semicolons can aid clarity. If ambiguity seems unlikely, commas may be used instead …”

      Your original sentence is grammatically correct and does not appear to cause any ambiguity; however, the word ambiguity could be open to personal interpretation. You also could have written: “The following day, my mother (Grammy), Josh, Erin, Abel, and I went to a restaurant …” but you may have had a reason for the order and groupings of names. Your editor’s sentence also is grammatically correct.

  10. Laird Landon says:

    I’ve never paid attention to this but I’m writing a book and want to get it right. My name is Eliot Laird Landon Jr. I have a PhD. Is the comma correct or necessary between Jr. and PhD, as in Eliot Laird Landon Jr., PhD? I’d rather leave it out.

    • Our Rule 12 of Commas says, ” …use commas to enclose degrees or titles used with names.” Therefore, use the comma: Eliot Laird Landon Jr., PhD. OR the more traditional Eliot Laird Landon, Jr., PhD.

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